The "Essai d'Anatomie" was produced by Gautier D'Agoty in 1745 in Paris, France. It is a remarkably detailed atlas of the head, neck, and shoulder areas of the human body with explanatory text in French. The anatomical images were based on human cadavers dissected by Joseph Duverney (1) and produced using the mezzotint method of engraving and printing.
Mezzotint color engraving printing was invented by Jaques Christophe Le Blon in 1719. Mezzotint (from the Italian phrase "mezza tina" or "half tone") prints are produced by engraving a metal plate with numerous small holes that hold ink. When used to make a print, the engraved plate produces large areas of subtle shaded color tones. Since the mezzotint technique is quite labor-intensive, it fell out of favor by the 20th century, although it is still utilized by some artists. Most often used to reproduce paintings by famous artists, mezzotint printing was rarely used for original works of art (2), making the "Essai d'Anatomie" a work of great scientific and artistic significance.
The original copy of the "Essai d'Anatomie" held by the Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences at Tulane University was restored, bound, and digitized by William Kitchens. The restoration work was completed on May 6, 2008. These remarkable anatomical images from the 18th century provide a fascinating look into both the artistic and scientific climate of the period.
1. Christie's. (2011). GAUTIER D'AGOTY, Jacques (1717-1786) and Joseph Guichard DUVERNEY. Essai d'Anatomie, en Tableaux imprimes, qui represent au naturel tous les muscles de la face, du col, de la tete, de la langue & du larynx... -- Myologie complette en couleur et grandeur naturelle, compose de l'essai et de la suite de l'essai d'anatomie, en tableaux imprimes. Paris: Gautier [vol. I]; Gautier, Quillau pre et fils, and Lamesle [vol. II], 1745-46-. | Books & Manuscripts Auction. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=4959941.
2. mezzotint. (2011). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/379559/mezzotint.